While going back to school can be an exciting time for kids and parents, it can also be extremely stressful. Teens who already suffer from a mental health disorder are more likely to experience back-to-school stress. By helping your child manage their stress and feelings of anxiousness, you can help make their transition back to school a smoother and more positive experience.
What Contributes to Back-to-School Stress in Teens?
Teens may struggle with stress from schoolwork, friends, or social anxiety. A new school year brings new classes, different teachers, and academic challenges. While bullies are an obvious source of interpersonal stress, friendships can sometimes be difficult as well. Because teens are so concerned about “fitting in” with friend groups and social situations, they may feel significant back-to-school stress and anxiety when they are around their closest friends.
Today’s kids have also come of age during a pandemic. Some students may be worried about COVID-related concerns. Other than worrying about getting sick, they may be concerned about spreading diseases to an immunocompromised loved one.
Students may be worried about finding their homeroom and classes on the first day. If they are transitioning to a different school, they may be afraid of making new friends. In addition, teens may worry about what others think of their appearance – their clothes, hair, skin, etc.
Back-to-School Stress for Teens Struggling with Mental Health
Back-to-school stress is worse for teenagers who already have other mental health concerns. Chronic stress can cause someone to experience a sense of paralysis or panic. This can lead to even more stress because the teen may feel unable to cope, unable to move forward.
Students who have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may struggle to track their assignments, and, during the time when schools were closed due to the pandemic, many kids with ADHD had a difficult time with remote schooling. Because they have more problems focusing, it is hard for these students to complete their homework assignments on time, listen in class, and stay calm and still.
School stress is also challenging for teens who have depression. When someone is depressed, they are apathetic and lack the motivation to hang out with friends, socialize, or complete assignments. While seeing friends can provide a mood boost, the mere act of getting out of bed, or making the effort for to maintain friendships, can feel like an insurmountable obstacle.
Back-to-school stress for parents and teenagers can worsen the symptoms of a mental illness. If the child doesn’t get help, it can impact their grades, friendships, and life satisfaction. In addition to having mental and physical side effects, untreated school stress can also make it harder for the teen to graduate.
How to Help Teens Manage Stress and Fatigue
If your teen is suffering from back-to-school stress, there are things you can help them do to create a framework for success in tackling that stress. From writing in a journal to mindfulness meditation, these techniques can make going back to school a calmer, more enjoyable experience.
1. Share the Positives of Returning to School
Sometimes, people forget about the positive aspects of life. Dwelling on the negatives can end up causing more stress, so help your child look toward the bright side. Be sure to create time in your schedule to provide them the opportunity to share about their day. Sometimes they just need someone to listen to them and let them know they are supported and valued.
2. Help Them Explore New Or Different Extracurricular Activities Or Sports
Exercise increases endorphins, which naturally improve your mood. Better physical fitness can also impact the child’s confidence and self-esteem. Extracurricular activities can give teens new avenues to make new friends, try something different, or gain a new sense of belonging. Would your teen like to work on the tech or set-building crew for a high school theatre production? Are there new or different clubs or activity groups your teen might explore?
3. Follow a Routine
Sometimes, the best thing kids can do is “fake it until they make it”. Going through a daily routine, or adhering to a set daily schedule, can help teens eventually mitigate feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety. Taking time on a Sunday afternoon to check in with your teen and review the week ahead is a good way to establish the pattern surrounding that schedule, and thus mitigate the stress of what’s ahead.
4. Write in a Journal
Writing in a journal for just five minutes a day has been found to boost happiness levels. It gives teens an outlet for their feelings, which can alleviate stress.
5. Help Them Learn Mindfulness
You can help your child deal with stress from school by teaching them mindfulness meditation. Other than helping them learn to exist in the present moment, this technique can also improve mental clarity, memory, compassion, and life satisfaction.
6. Seek Professional Assistance
Back-to-school stress can sometimes indicate other mental health problems. Through the help of a mental health professional, your child can get the support they need to have positive experiences that result in productive school years.
Learn Better Ways to Cope with School Stress
If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health issues, adolescent services and programs at Northern California Behavioral Health System’s locations in Sacramento and Santa Rosa can help. Please reach out to us online at https://norcalbehavioral.com or call 877-717-0085 today. Help is just a phone call away.